Tag Archives: State Senator Will Haskell

Roundup: Bike Lights, Jim Himes, Beechwood Arts …

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“06880” gave the wrong date yesterday for the 42nd annual Compo Beach Point to Point Swim. The correct date is Sunday, July 18.

The rest of the story was correct. Its a ton of fun — and a key fundraiser for the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s aquatics program.

There are awards for the top 3 male and female finishers, and t-shirts for all. To register, click here. For more information email jrojas@wesetporty.org, or call 203-226-8981, ext. 139.

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John Richers writes:

On Monday night I drove on Hillspoint Road, from the Post Road to the Mill Pond. Just before 10 p.m., I saw 3 separate groups of 2 or 3 teens (or “tweens”) on bikes with no lights heading north, probably from the beach.

It was scary! I want parents to know: Please set your kids’ bikes up with lights. A set of rechargeable white front headlight and red taillight can be ordered through Amazon for under $20. A priceless investment! (Most safety-conscious bicyclists use strobing lights in broad daylight to increase visibility and safety.)

Just a moment of driver inattention or distraction could have tragic consequences. Parents need to know the dangers their kids are facing!

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Got a question, complaint or (even) praise for Jim Himes? Tell him in person.

Our congressman holds a “town hall”-style meeting at the Westport Library on Saturday, July 17 (11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.). Seating is limited; click here to register.

Congressman Jim Himes, at a previous “town hall” meeting at Bedford Middle School. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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Speaking of politics: As one of the youngest state politicians in the country, 2014 Staples High School graduate (and state senator) Will Haskell often gets calls from students and recent graduates. They ask how to run for office.

He doesn’t have all the answers. But he’s put his thoughts together in a new Simon & Schuster book. “100,000 First Bosses: My Unlikely Path as a 22-Year-Old Lawmaker” describes his 2018 campaign, and first year in the Connecticut Senate.

Haskell’s book goes on sale in January. It’s available for pre-sale now. Click here to order, and for more information.


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Beechwood Arts’ most popular annual event returns August 1 (2 to 6 p.m.).

The grounds at 52 Weston Road will be open. That’s fitting. This year’s theme is “Opening Up.” It’s Beechwood’s first full, in-person arts immersion experience since fall of 2019.

The event marks Beechwood’s 10th year. Favorite musical artists from the past will be on hand; there are special arts installations too, along with spontaneous community performances, an outdoor artist market and sculptures, all on Beechwood’s beautiful property.

Artists and performers are welcome to share their talents. Click here for tickets, and more information on how to take part.

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When the Westport Rotary Club and Westport Soccer Association partnered on a gently used uniform and equipment drive, they expected a few donations.

What they got was astonishing: over 200 pairs of cleats, 150 soccer balls, dozens of jerseys, backpacks, shin guards, cones, even referee equipment.

It will all be shipped to a club in Nicaragua, which will use all of it. Score a big win for Westport!

Leslie Roberts, former Westport Rotary Club president, with a small portion of the donated soccer gear.

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The Westport Police has joined the Gillespie Center food pantry drive.

Now through August, residents can drop items off at the Gillespie Center courtyard (behind Don Memo restaurant, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays), or the Westport Police Department lobby, across from the Gillespie Center men’s shelter on Jesup Road (any time, 24/7).

Non-perishable items needed include canned meats, tuna, salmon, Spam, pasta sauces, hot and cold cereals, canned fruits and soups, peanut butter, jelly, pasta, mac and cheese, paper goods and reusable bags.

Questions? Call 203-226-3426, or email info@hwhct.org.

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Maya Konig and Kathy Belzer met when their children were in Westport preschool. During the pandemic, they tried to think positively. Their combined love for exploring, experiencing and finding beauty in simple things led them to create Local Luxe Co.

It’s a “gift-giving company.” They source local products from artisans and “emerging makers” throughout the Northeast, and offer them online in seasonal collections. Options include real estate broker closing gifts, and corporate and special events.  

Products include environmentally friendly beach bags made from oyster traps, home accessories, eco-friendly wellness and beauty products for adults and tweens, and snacks and drinks.

Among their local partners: The Two-Oh-Three, Allison Daniels Designs, Laurel & Vine and Rustic Ridge.

A portion of proceeds will be given to Breathe4ALS, the foundation started by Westporters Jonathan and Iris Greenfield. (Click here for the Local Luxe Co. website.)

Gift options from Local Luxe Co.

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Noted artist Barbara Bernstein died last month, from chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. She was 86.

A colorist whose work evokes the legacy of the French Impressionists, she produced landscapes and interiors in both oils and watercolors. She was a founding member of Art/Place Gallery.

Barbara participated in more than 200 group and national juried shows, and won more than 40 awards. She was a juried artists member of the Connecticut Watercolor Society, Connecticut Women Artists and the New Haven Paint and Clay Club. Her works are in the collections of General Electric Corp. the town of Westport and many others.

Passionate about art and education, she received two graduate degrees, in teaching and education. She taught art in the Westport school system for many years.

Barbara was also known for her commitment to social justice. She participated in the 1963 March on Washington, and protested the wars in Vietnam and Iraq in weekly vigils. She was arrested for civil disobedience while protesting the mining of Haiphong Harbor and escalation of the war in Vietnam.

Barbara was also passionate about travel, often bringing her sketchbooks and watercolors on diverse treks. She traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America and New Zealand.

Barbara was preceded in death by her brother Albert and sister Alice. She is survived by her husband Joseph; children Eric, Sara and David; 2 nephews and many cousins.

Services are private. In lieu of flowers, please donate to Planned Parenthood or the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. For information or to sign an online register, click here.

Barbara Bernstein

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“Naturally … Westport” offers up today’s beautiful image:

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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And finally … on this day in 1889, the Wall Street Journal published its first issue.

Also today in 1932, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its lowest level of the Great Depression. It closed at 41.22.

States Passes Zoning Reform

Yesterday, the Connecticut Senate passed HB 6107 — the same zoning bill passed previously by the state House. Click here for the full text.

As noted by Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin on “06880” last week, the bill contains language specifically requiring towns to consider the impact of development on the Long Island Sound. This provides additional protection against overdevelopment in Saugatuck and around Main Street.

The bill also contains language requiring towns to permit a diversity of housing types, which Westport already does in our zoning code. This will have a real impact in towns across Connecticut that still don’t allow anything other than single family homes.

Westport has added diverse housing in areas like 793 Post Road East. Homes are set back from the Post Road, between residential and retail areas.

The bill creates a blue ribbon commission to look at affordable housing and zoning that’s mostly made up of legislators and various state level commissioners (e.g., Housing, DEEP, Transportation, etc.), as well as representatives from the COGs. This may lead to a revision of 8-30g, the controversial “affordable housing” regulation.

One important provision of the bill exempts new accessory dwelling units and accessory apartments from counting as part of overall dwelling units for 8-30(g). This means that permitting ADUs won’t count against Westport’s compliance with the statute.

The bill requires towns to permit ADUs but also provides an opt-out mechanism for towns where these units aren’t the right fit for infrastructure, soils, etc. Westport also permits ADUs in every single family zone, so this provision will not impact us.

The bill limits parking requirements to 1 space/studio or one-bedroom or 2 spaces/2-bedroom or above but provides an opt-out.

There’s a requirement for 4 hours of commissioner training per year. There’s no draconian penalty for non-compliance.

State Senator Will Haskell calls this “a very modest bill aimed at increasing housing supply in our state.” He praises the work of P&Z commissions in his district, for working together, adding that the legislation “does not infringe on local control, but instead empowers local commissioners to create more housing diversity without altering the look of their community.”

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In other P&Z news, last night Westport’s unanimously approved a new façade and site plan for the old Barnes & Noble building.

The new tenant — who will also occupy the adjacent Marshall’s Shoe Store space — is an as-yet-unnamed grocery store. It’s widely believed around town to be Amazon Go. featuring automated technology.

Coming soon: a new facade — and tenant.

 

COVID Vaccine, Restriction Rollback Update:

State Senator Will Haskell offers this COVID-19 update:

Connecticut this week received 39,000 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, in addition to the thousands of Moderna and Pfizer doses already being distributed on a regular basis. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe, effective, and requires only 1 injection, so we’ll be able to accelerate the rate of immunization significantly in the coming weeks and months.

Currently, 74 percent of state residents over the age of 75 have received at least 1 dose of the vaccine; 59 percent between 65 and 74 have received at least 1 dose, and 17 percent between 55 and 64 have received at least 1 dose. I’m proud that we’ve administered over 1 million vaccine doses.

In light of our vaccination success and the overall decline of COVID-19 cases, Governor Lamont has also announced the rollback of certain social distancing restrictions beginning March 19th, including the full capacity reopening of indoor restaurants.

These new restrictions reflect that we’re moving closer to a fully reopened economy. In the meantime, it is important that all employees and customers continue to wear masks, stay 6feet apart, and wash their hands frequently. The more we do those things, the more likely it is that we will be able to fully reopen and put this pandemic behind us in the near future.

Haskell Proposes COVID Memorial

State Senator — and Staples High School Class of 2014 graduate — Will Haskell writes:

I was 5years-old on September 11, 2001 when my mom picked me up early from school and we drove to Sherwood Island State Park. Standing on the shores of Long Island Sound, we stared silently across the water and saw the smoke rising from lower Manhattan.

Today, Sherwood Island is home to Connecticut’s 9/11 memorial, a 9-foot, commemorative granite stone, etched with the names of fathers, mothers, siblings and friends who were lost 19 years ago.

The 9/11 memorial at Sherwood Island State Park honors the names of all Connecticut residents killed on 9/11. Several were from Westport. (Photo/David Squires)

As a state and a community, we build public memorials to help us process the catastrophes we witness and the holes they leave in our hearts. They serve as reminders to subsequent generations that life is precious and subject to the most unexpected and uncommon disruptions.

This year, I am proposing legislation for the creation of a Connecticut COVID-19 memorial.

COVID-19, of course, is a different sort of tragedy. It has ended lives in lonely ICU units, forced families to say farewell over FaceTime and required healthcare workers to put their lives on the line to keep others safe. The necessities of social distancing has limited our ability to gather for funerals or memorial services. The chaos of 2020 — from learning how to educate students over Zoom to tracking the development and distribution of vaccines — have pulled attention away from the enormity of the loss that our state has experienced.

As we entered 2021, Connecticut surpassed 6,000 lives lost due to the virus: greater than the total number of state casualties from both world wars. Indeed, in the nearly 400 year arc of Connecticut’s history, it’s challenging to think of any equivalent concentration of strife or personal tragedy. The victims of this pandemic, their families, and the healthcare workers who served them in their final moments, deserve a permanent monument of remembrance.

The coronavirus is a worldwide tragedy. Staples High School graduate and Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Tyler Hicks captured this makeshift cemetery in Brazil, for the New York Times.

This month, I will introduce a bill calling for the Connecticut Office of Public Arts to initiate a process for members of the public to submit proposals for a memorial. A committee of sculptors, architects, and landscapers would then review the submissions and select a fitting tribute. The end goal will be a permanent, physical memorial for the victims of COVID-19 that will sit in one of our 139 state parks and forests.

A memorial is not going to end this pandemic or reverse its economic effects. On the list of 2021 legislative priorities, it falls below vaccine distribution, nursing home support, remote learning, and a host of immediate concerns that my colleagues and I will be grappling with in the next few months. But I believe it’s important, in the middle of this sad, strange time, for us to plan our memory of it.

 

COVID Vaccine: Questions & Answers

State Senator Will Haskell says:

Starting yesterday, thousands of health care workers across Connecticut began receiving the first dose of a vaccine developed by Pfizer and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Connecticut ought to be especially proud that some of Pfizer’s Groton-based employees played a critical role in developing the vaccine.

Many more people will be vaccinated in the coming months, helped along by the expected approval of the Moderna-developed COVID-19 vaccine. Other promising vaccination candidates, including ones designed by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, may find approval in the winter.

We’ve lost more than 5,300 Connecticut residents to this terrible virus, and each of us have struggled to maintain a sense of sanity and normalcy during this trying time. Finally, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

In speaking with constituents, I’ve heard a few frequent questions about how our state will administer the vaccine. Below, I’ve tried to answer just a few of them. Of course, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have a question that I haven’t addressed below.

Hartford Healthcare’s Keith Grant was among the first in Connecticut to receive a COVID-19 vaccine yesterday. Governor Ned Lamont looked on.

When does the vaccine arrive?

The COVID-19 vaccine is already being administered in Connecticut. With Phase 1a underway, you can read more details about the upcoming phases of distribution by visiting ct.gov/coronavirus. The United States has ordered 200 million total doses of these two-shot vaccines (enough to inoculate 100 million individuals nationwide). Negotiations with vaccine producers are ongoing, and other promising candidates may still be approved in coming weeks and months. Of course, this would dramatically accelerate the delivery of future doses.

Is it like a flu shot, where I only need to get one dose?

While some vaccine candidates for COVID-19, including the one developed by Johnson & Johnson, are expected to only require one dose, the COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna both require two doses to fully prime immune systems for full protection against the virus.

Are there side effects?

If you’ve ever received a flu shot, you likely remember having a slightly numb arm and mild cold symptoms as your body reacted to the immunization. The COVID-19 vaccine is reported to have similar results. While mild flu-like symptoms after each dose may not sound like fun, they reportedly abate within one day of receiving a dose.

When can I get my shot?

That depends on a variety of factors, including the state’s supply and your personal details. The first group to receive the vaccine will be health care workers and other medical first responders, since they face a disproportionate risk of contracting the virus from patients. Also included in Phase 1a are long-term care facility residents and staff, since approximately 70 percent of Connecticut’s total deaths caused by COVID-19 took place inside these facilities.

Next, vaccines will be delivered to members of the critical workforce, those living in congregate settings where transmission risk is high, adults over the age of 65 and high-risk individuals under the age of 65. Adults older than 65 see the highest rate of deaths from COVID-19.

Is the vaccine mandatory?

No. At this point, the demand for the vaccine far outstrips the supply. Both the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention will be closely monitoring vaccine recipients who develop any side effects.

How does the vaccine work?

These vaccines use messenger-RNA, or mRNA, that teach the body how to recognize and fight COVID-19. Once both doses are administered, antibodies will develop to help us fight infection after future exposure. Pfizer’s vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95% among study participants, and the vaccine was equally efficacious among all age groups, genders and races. Importantly, the vaccine becomes effective one week after the second dose is administered.

Will the vaccine give me COVID-19? Will I be contagious?

These vaccines cannot infect you with COVID-19. Importantly, they will have a 6-week period to reach full protective effect, so recipients are asked to continue wearing masks and social distance after receiving them. It may be possible to catch COVID-19 through community spread after receiving the vaccine but before it is fully effective (one week after the second dose).

So the vaccine will end the pandemic?

Not immediately. Vaccinations will need widespread adoption in order to reduce the spread of the virus and achieve herd immunity. However, this is a major step forward in the fight to save lives and re-open our economy.

I have more questions. Where can I get them answered?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state government, hospitals including Hartford HealthCare and Yale New Haven Health and your personal physician will all likely be able to provide more information about the vaccine.

COVID-19 Roundup: Business Advice; Stop & Shop Special Hours For Seniors; Restaurant, Parks & Rec News

State Senator Will Haskell says:

Person-to-Person
Many families in our area are struggling with the economic repercussions of temporary unemployment. Person-to-Person (P2P) serves residents of Fairfield County who are affected by the outbreak. No proof of income is required for those who are seeking food assistance.

Free shelf-stable groceries including produce, protein and dairy are available to employees furloughed due to COVID-19 and residents with incomes below 235 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Call 203-655-0048 to make an appointment. Locations in Darien, Norwalk and Stamford supply food to the public with varying hours.

P2P is also supplying emergency financial assistance for those who need help with rent, security deposits, utilities and small emergency expenses. Call 203-655-0048 for more information.

If you’re not struggling to put food on the table, consider helping others by donating food, toiletries, paper goods, diapers or gift cards. These supplies can be dropped off at 1864 Post Road in Darien or 76 South Main Street in Norwalk from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon, and after hours by appointment. For more details, call 203-621-0703.

Finally, you can donate to a virtual food drive at www.p2phelps.org. Person-to-Person can purchase more than $3 worth of food with every dollar donated.

Unemployment and Layoffs
Unfortunately, an increasing number of businesses will be laying off staff and reducing hours. The financial repercussions of this health crisis could be tremendous. The Connecticut Department of Labor asks that you follow these steps if you are a worker or business owner who needs to file for unemployment:

If you are a worker: Visit www.filectui.com to file for unemployment as soon as possible. It is important to file as soon as you become unemployed. If you need help completing your application, email dol.webhelp@ct.gov.

If you contract COVID-19 and need to take time off work or are fired, you may file for unemployment benefits. You may also file for unemployment benefits if you are required to self-quarantine, your employer closes during this outbreak or a family member becomes ill. The outcome will depend on a case-by-case basis.

If your employer only permits you to work part-time instead of full-time or you work multiple jobs and your full-time employer closes, you may be eligible for partial unemployment.

If your employer retaliates against you for filing unemployment, you may file a complaint under the Connecticut Unemployment Compensation Act.

The Department of Labor is also suspending federal work search programs requiring unemployment recipients to meet one-on-one for assistance and is suspending work search requirements for unemployment benefits. Furloughed employees are eligible for at least six weeks of benefits.

If you are an employer: If one of your employees is sick with COVID-19, you can require them to stay home, though you should issue them an Unemployment Separation Package.

If you must close your business due to illness or quarantine, direct your employees to www.filectui.com.

The Department of Labor offers a SharedWork program for employers seeing business slow down. This is an alternative to a layoff, allowing employers to reduce full-time employees’ wages by up to 60 percent while workers collect partial unemployment. All employers with at least two full-time or permanent part-time employees can participate. A reduction of work must be between 10 and 60 percent of activities.

More details, including information about paid sick leave, wages and hours, and family medical leave, can be found at this link.

Small Businesses
Small businesses are the cornerstone of Connecticut’s economy, employing roughly 700,00 residents. That’s why Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development announced that the 800 small business owners who owe loan payments to the state’s Small Business Express program can defer payment for three months.

Yesterday Governor Lamont submitted a request to the U.S. Small Business Administration, asking the federal agency to issue a declaration that will enable Connecticut’s small business owners to receive economic injury disaster loans. Once these loans become available, I will spread the word on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Starting Thursday, Stop & Shop will offer seniors-only shopping from 6 a.m. to 7:30. Only customers 60 and over — the most vulnerable group for acquiring the virus — will be allowed in the store then.

The decision was made, the chain says, to “practice effective social distancing.”

In addition, starting today, all Stop & Shop stores will now close at 8 p.m. That will give employees more time to unload inventory and stock shelves.

(Hat tip: Paula Lacy)


Nathaniel Brogadir of Delivery.com is offering local restaurant owners no fees for 30 days. Owners should email nbrogadir@delivery.com for details.


Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department has closed its office until further notice.

All programs and program registration is postponed indefinitely.

Beach emblem sales are postponed until April 1. They can be ordered online then. If assistance is needed, call 203-341-5090.

Westport’s Parks & Rec Department in Longshore is closed until further notice. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)